Published on : Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Until two terrorist attacks in 2015 plagued the tourism industry, the coasts of Carthage, to the elegant village of Sidi Bou Said to the bustling city of Tunis, Tunisia was a dream holiday destination. Immediately afterwards, tourism numbers plummeted, forcing hotels to close and many tourism and hospitality workers to lose their jobs.
But three years on, Tunisia’s tourism trade is finally making a comeback with revenues up by nearly a third, signalling the start of a real recovery.
Some 2.3 million tourists visited Tunisia from January 1 through to May 20, up 21.8 percent from the same period last year, according to a document from the country’s ministry. In the same period, tourist revenue climbed up to 37.7 percent, while the rate of European tourists shot up by 50 percent.
In 2015, gunmen attacked the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, while militants targeted a beach resort in Sousse – targeting tourists. The attacks saw 59 foreign tourists and a Tunisian guard killed.
The first five months of the year witnessed an increase in the number of visitors, with Russians making up 57 percent of tourists while 46 percent of people were from China.
Tourism Minister Selma Elloumi optimistically called it “a real recovery,” reiterating the target she projected earlier in February, with hopes of Tunisia receiving eight million visitors this year.
The return of tour operators including TUI France and the UK’s Thomas Cook, which pulled out after the 2015 attacks, has also helped buoy the figures.
Hotels in key tourist hotspots like Djerba, Hammamet and Mahdia are fully booked for the summer season, the tourism ministry said. Bookings of French tourists for summer holidays in Tunisia have spiked over 200 percent compared to last year, according to the Union of French Tour Operators (SETO).
Furthermore, the first three months of the year has seen a neat 100 percent rise in arrivals from the UK (10,000) and Belgium (9,600).
“People are coming back to Tunisia because there is security… we are at the same level (of security) as any European city, “Elloumi added.
Security concerns have diminished, and several European countries have lifted travel restrictions, according to the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Analysts believe the eased restrictions will boost Tunisia’s tourism industry, which accounts for eight percent of the country’s GDP.